The New Points Based Immigration System and Applying for a Sponsor Licence
If your business is contemplating applying for a sponsor licence for the first time then the whole Home Office application process can seem a bit intimidating. However, with the end of free movement and the introduction of the new points based Immigration system on the 1 January 2021, many businesses realise that they have no option other than to apply for a sponsor licence if they want to recruit sufficient staff or suitably skilled workers. In this blog we look at the application process for a Home Office Sponsor Licence to sponsor workers on Tier 2 (General) visas.
Sponsor Licence solicitors
If you don’t know whether your business needs to apply for a Home Office sponsor licence or if you need help with making your first Sponsor Licence application then call our specialist sponsor licence solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.
Preliminary steps before applying for a Sponsor Licence
Sponsor Licence solicitors will tell you that when it comes to applying for a sponsor licence the key to a successful Sponsor Licence application is to do your homework and work out what you need before you apply. That doesn’t just mean the type of Sponsor Licence your business needs but also what information and office procedures your business should organise as well as any legal and professional support required.
Sponsor Licence solicitors therefore recommend that businesses:
Check their Sponsor Licence needs by carrying out a business review. A sponsor licence solicitor or other professional, such as a business consultant, can help your business with this. Whilst you may question whether a review is justified it can save your business time and money in the long run
Check your business meets the eligibility criteria to apply for a Sponsor Licence. There is no minimum or maximum size of business so Sponsor Licence applications can be submitted by start-ups, SMEs and multi-nationals. However, if your business has a history with a previous sponsor licence revocation or a director, key personnel or a senior employee has unspent convictions for Immigration offences or some types of criminal offence, or has previously been employed in a business where the Sponsor Licence reporting duties were not complied with or the Sponsor Licence was suspended or revoked, this will affect the prospects of success of your Sponsor Licence application
Review your office procedures. It is best to take a look at all your office procedures from how you carry out and record right to work checks, the review of right to work checks, policies on the prevention of illegal working, and procedures on recruitment and retention of staff. Many Sponsor Licence applicants find it helpful for a sponsor licence solicitor to carry out an audit of HR files and procedures. Whilst your existing systems may be excellent they may need to be adapted to successfully secure your Sponsor Licence and to then comply with your reporting duties under a Sponsor Licence
Put your Sponsor Licence management system in place. In anticipation ofobtaining your Sponsor Licence it is best to look at how you will best manage your Sponsor Licence. That way you will be able to demonstrate that your business has the policies and procedures and resources in place to manage the Sponsor Licence. The Sponsor Licence management could be resourced internally by training key staff or outsourcing to a sponsor licence solicitor and using their Sponsor Licence management services.
Sponsor Licence solicitors
If you want to apply for a Home Office sponsor licence or need help with Sponsor Licence management then call our specialist sponsor licence solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.
What is the Sponsor Licence application process?
Once you have prepared your Sponsor Licence application and all the supporting paperwork the application is submitted to the Home Office. An official fromUK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may visit your business to check that your business is suitable for a Sponsor Licence and has all the correct systems and procedures in place. That is why it is best to review and put the systems in place to reduce the risks of your Sponsor Licence application being refused by the Home Office.
If your Sponsor Licence application is successful your business will be given a Sponsor Licence rating. Your Sponsor Licence will last for a period of four years unless the sponsor licence is revoked by the Home Office. Sponsor Licence solicitors say that even if your business isn’t audited by an official from UKVI prior to the grant of the Sponsor Licence it is essential that procedures are maintained so your business doesn’t encounter difficulties during the life of the Sponsor Licence or when you come to submit your application for the renewal of your sponsor licence to the Home Office.
Who do I need to appoint to manage the Sponsor Licence?
Prior to applying for your Sponsor Licence your business will need toappoint people to manage the Sponsor Licence. As a business you can either decide to manage the Sponsor Licence internally or externally (through use of a Sponsor Licence management service). Whatever choice is best for your business your key personnel will need to use the Home Office sponsor management system (SMS) for reporting and recording purposes.
The Sponsor Licence management roles are:
Authorising officer – the business owner, HR director or other suitable senior employee who is trustworthy and can take responsibility for the management of the Sponsor Licence and the staff authorised to use the SMS
Key contact – the person delegated to liaise with UKVI over the management of the Sponsor Licence
Level 1 user – the person or employee responsible for the management of the Sponsor Licence.
Although the roles are distinct, the Home Office guidance on sponsor licences says that one person can be allocated all three roles. That may be the only practical solution if your business is a small start-up but you need a Sponsor Licence to recruit Tier 2 (General) visa applicants for their specialist skills.
If your business has a large workforce and you don’t want to outsource the SMS duties then you can, after the grant of your Sponsor Licence, appoint a level two user to help manage the SMS. The level 2 user won't have as much authority as a level one user but can be essential to enable your business to keep up with its Sponsor Licence management duties.
The Home Office will want to know who your key personnel will be when you submit your Sponsor Licence application. This is because they will need to conduct suitability checks on the proposed key personnel. That’s why it is best to check the suitability of your key personnel prior to submission of your Sponsor Licence application as one of the reasons for the refusal of a Sponsor Licence application is often the unsuitability of a proposed key personnel member because of an unspent Immigration offence, criminal conviction or a previous history of working in a business where a Sponsor Licence was revoked in the last twelve months.
How do you outsource management of the Sponsor Licence?
Based in the UK
An employee or office holder and not a temporary consultant or an agency worker or contractor
Free from any bankruptcy order.
The rules say that at least one level 1 user must be an employee of the business but other level 1 or level 2 users can be employed as contractors and your level 2 user could be an agency worker.
If you prefer to use a sponsor licence solicitor to manage your Sponsor Licence duties and the SMS then a UK based solicitor (provided they are qualified to give Immigration law advice) can be allocated all of the key personnel roles other than the authorising officer role.
What documents are needed to support a Sponsor Licence application?
Sponsor Licence solicitors say that it is best to take legal advice on your Sponsor Licence application and the supporting paperwork because if your business doesn’t send the correct documents the application is likely to be refused, costing the business time and money and delaying recruitment plans.
The extent of the documents your business will need to provide depends on the nature and size of your business. For example, different rules apply if your company is listed on the London Stock exchange or your organisation is a public body.
Most businesses need to provide at least four documents in support of their Sponsor Licence application .The documents must be the original paperwork or certified copies. A sponsor licence solicitor is one of the people who can certify documents for your business.
Appendix A of the Sponsor Licence guide for employers sets out the paperwork needed to support your Sponsor Licence application. The Appendix makes it clear that the documents needed depend on the nature and size of your organisation or business.
A company listed on the London Stock Exchange does not have to supply any documents other than those that relate to their specific Sponsor Licence type whereas start-up businesses that have been trading for less than eighteen months need to supply more extensive paperwork as well as any required evidence that has to be submitted for the Tier Sponsor Licence that the business is applying for.
Table 4 of Appendix A of the guide sets out the paperwork that a business may need to produce, for example:
Certificate of VAT registration
Evidence of registration with HMRC for Employment purposes
Employer liability insurance policy
Evidence of ownership of the business premises or evidence of the lease.
In addition to the general evidence in support of a Sponsor Licence application if a business is applying for a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence to sponsor workers under Tier 2 (General) visas then the business has to supply additional documents. For example, if a business wants to be able to sponsor Tier 2 workers they need to explain why they need to sponsor workers to fill any skills gap or shortage occupation.
As Appendix A is confusing it is best to take legal advice on the type and extent of the documents your business needs to provide in support of the Sponsor Licence application to avoid your application being rejected or refused.
How much is the Sponsor Licence fee?
The Sponsor Licence is payable at the date of application rather than when the Sponsor Licence is first used .The cost depends on the nature and size of your organisation or business and the type of Tier Sponsor Licence your business is applying for.
The Sponsor Licence application fee for a small business is currently set at £536 to secure a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence. A small company is classed as one that employs fifty staff or less or has an annual turnover of less than 10.2 million.
The Sponsor Licence application fee isn’t the only fee that you will incur. In addition there is:
A fee payable on assignment of a Certificate of Sponsorship to a Tier 2 (General) visa applicant (currently £199)
Immigration skills charge (the fee depends on the length of the visa).
What happens if the Sponsor Licence is granted?
If your Sponsor Licence application is successful the Home Office will inform you and provide a Sponsor Licence rating. The business will get an A rating whenapproved but the status of the Sponsor Licence could be downgraded to a B rating if the business doesn’t comply with all its Sponsor Licence reporting duties.
It is best to ensure that your business maintains it’s A rating as without that rating the business can't assign new Certificates of Sponsorship to Tier 2 (General) visa applicants and therefore, after the implementation of the new points based Immigration system, won't be able to recruit workers from either the EU or from non-EEA countries.
Can you appeal against the refusal of a Sponsor Licence?
There is no right of appeal against the decision by the Home Office to refuse a Sponsor Licence. That is why it is best to take legal advice from a sponsor licence solicitor before applying for your Sponsor Licence.
If your application for a Sponsor Licence is refused then your best option is to reapply for your Sponsor Licence but first of all you will need to take legal advice on where your original application ‘’went wrong’’ and on how your business either didn’t meet the eligibility criteria or didn’t submit the correct paperwork in support of the Sponsor Licence application.
Sponsor licence solicitors emphasise that it is best to get expert advice as in some situations your business won't be able to apply straight away for a new Sponsor Licence, highlighting the importance of getting your Sponsor Licence application right first time.
UK Sponsor Licence solicitors
Whether this is your first application for a sponsor licence, or if you have had a previous Sponsor Licence application refused, now is the time to apply to the Home Office for your sponsor licence to ensure your business is ready for the end of free movement and the new points based Immigration system.
OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration and personal immigration law . The firm is recommended in the two leading law directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession. The specialist lawyers provide easy to follow immigration and employment law advice looking at your best Brexit options and follow-up advice and legal services from applying for a sponsor licence, sponsor licence management services, settled status one day application service for existing EU citizen employees and HR staff training on sponsor licence compliance and reporting duties.